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By Faith Nyasuguta 

An investigation on the rising obesity in Kenya has landed researchers on an improbable culprit- marriage.

Evidence now reveals that immediately after a couple moves in together, the duo begins to add weight.

The research looked into data from the 2015 Kenya STEPwise Survey, the first nationally representative survey to objectively measure body mass index among Kenyan men and women.

This was set to allow targeted health interventions.

The analysis showed that married individuals are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese.

At least 31.7 per cent of all married or cohabiting people were overweight, compared to 22 per cent of those divorced or separated.

About 30 per cent of those widowed were also overweight or obese.

It also showed that single people, who have never married, have the fittest bodies, with only 18 per cent being overweight.


The marriage market theory explains that single people keep fit to attract partners, but once married, they no longer have that pressure and are carefree.

Following this, the scientists clarified that it was already common knowledge that people become weightier with age, but some other drivers of overweight and obesity in Kenya remained unknown.

The researchers included a professor from a local university, The University of Nairobi, among others from three different universities based in the United States.

The scientists analysed data of 4,340 Kenyan adults aged between 18 and 69 years and looked into the prevalence, sociodemographic and behavioural risk factors associated with being overweight or obese.

“Given the public health concerns about obesity, understanding more about the social factors that can cause weight fluctuation is important,” they said.

According to the WHO, obesity is a risk factor for the four main non-communicable diseases – cancers, diabetes, heart diseases and chronic respiratory diseases.

The findings, prevalence and factors tied to overweight and obesity in Kenya, are published in the Preventive Medicine Reports journal.

“One of the more significant findings to emerge from this study is that alcohol consumption and adequate intake of fruits and vegetables were not significantly associated with the likelihood of being overweight or obesity,” the researchers added.


The scientists also theorised marriage saying it makes people fat because it could be that some people feed better as they gain access to higher wealth or second income.

Among other theories was that some men are driven by cultural expectations for them to grow bigger now that they have someone to “cook for them”.

Further, some married people have a preference for a larger body size as a sign of high wealth or social status, the researchers said.

A study by the UK’s University of Bath in 2017 showed married men gain up to two kilogrammes.

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Faith Nyasuguta

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